Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sleep well, Sir John.

`Blessed be St. Enodoc, blessed be the wave,

Blessed be the springy turf we pray, pray to thee

Ask for our children all happy days you gave

To Ralph, Vasey, Alistair, Biddy, John and me.`


Yes, Sir John Betjeman`s centenary year...and his poem `Trebetherick` (extract above) conjures up images of blissfull childhood days spent with dear friends in the idyllic surroundings of that spectacular area of north Cornwall he loved so well.

Last year, we spent a memorable afternoon at St. Enodoc church and we sat next to the rather ornate headstone that marks Betjeman`s grave. As you can see from our photograph, the location looks out beyond the tamarisk trees that surround the churchyard to the estuary of the River Camel, with Stepper Point beyond. But it was in Trebetherick village that Betjeman finally made his home - in a house named Treen along Daymer Lane, which leads down to the estuary at Daymer Bay.

It`s not an easy place to find, lost as it is among the lanes between Polzeath and Rock, but we managed to find our way down Daymer Lane to the car park by the sea, from which we were able to walk through the village lanes, across the golf course, to this enchanting churchyard with its compelling views and timeless serenity. The church itself, with its twisted spire, was built here 700 years ago and was long buried in the sand; to keep the tithes, the parson and clerk came to service through the roof - then it was lost altogether but finally found again in the 19th century.

It seems a fitting place for one of England`s finest poets to rest in peace in the place he loved.

Sleep well, Sir John...and thank you for the inspiration for blessed St. Enodoc to enchant me too.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Heart to heart

I spent a very happy boyhood at Hythe, on the western shore of Southampton Water. In those days - the `40s and `50s - Hythe was a small `village by the sea` with distinct boundaries, beyond which we seldom strayed. When we did, it was to visit the New Forest or, more often, Southampton - maybe for a bit of shopping, or just to make a change....or maybe to go and watch Southampton FC (`The Saints`) play at The Dell.

Southampton and Hythe were - and still are - linked by a wonderful ferry service, which plies between Southampton`s Town Quay and the pierhead at Hythe. I still go and watch The Saints play at their sparkling new stadium (St. Mary`s) despite living in Kent. I often choose to drive to Hythe, park there and get the ferry over rather than struggle through Southampton`s traffic. Of course, going back to Hythe may be to try and recapture those boyhood memories, when life may have been a bit austere but was safe and secure in that enveloping small community, but there are other more compelling reasons for my pilgrimages.

Hythe has changed a lot - perhaps too much - and is now a bit of a sprawl of commuter estates which have sprung up beyond the boundaries we used to obey. But the centre of the village - it`s heart and its soul - remain; improved if anything from how it was all those years ago, with an `atmospheric` pedestrianised High Street and, just completed, a new promenade overlooking the ever changing seascape.

I love my football - I love my days going to St. Mary`s - and I love going back to my boyhood roots. The ferry is the link between the two and has been for all these years, the same journey, the same timetable, the same sea-smell in the air, the same Solent breezes, the same `feel.` Safe and sound once more. The ferry takes me from one of my personal havens to another - truly a heart to heart journey.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Times past

This is a photograph of Chaddleworth church, deep in the downlands of the Berkshire/Oxfordshire border country.

My eldest son, David, and I have enjoyed a couple of delightful days in this remote and charming corner of England. Why?

Well, mainly because our research disclosed the fact that some of our family ancestors came from this part of the world - there are gravestones in the churchyard bearing their names. We found also that there is a certain `charm` about the village - there`s not much to it, but what there is, is quiet, peaceful, relaxed, relaxing, still....almost like going back in time.

A cynic would suggest that it`s the kind of place you can spend a fortnight in, in an afternoon. But it`s just the kind of place to go and see how slowly time can pass in the right conditions and when your mind is set.

Chaddleworth has a wonderful pub ("The Ibex") a host of lovely thatched cottages, the church is steeped in history , a beautiful adjoining manor house, with its lovely gardens....and at least one famous ex-resident; the sadly departed Chris Brasher, international athlete and founder of the London Marathon.

I hope we have more good days in this quiet, almost private haven of tranquility.